Community Art Educator of the Year

Jennessa Burks, Jennessa Art, Worcester

Jennessa is an educator, community advocacy, and self taught artist based in Worcester. She earned her Bachelor’s from Worcester State University in 2015 and later her Master’s from Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2019. Over the years Jennessa has immersed herself in a lifelong passion for the arts, emphasizing therapeutic benefits, forging community, and the power of public art. Through the use of paintings, mixed media pieces, and murals she works to express her emotions and amplify not only her voice, but more importantly the voices of her communities. Jennessa’s creations predominantly capture the beauty, strength, and resilience of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities through portraiture. Black and brown folx are commonly missing from art spaces, unfortunately reflective of their stories and truths being muted throughout history. With her portraits she aspires to bring joy to others who may experience the void of being unseen while bringing awareness to those who hold the privilege and fulfillment of being seen. 

Jennessa’s commissioned work, gallery displayed pieces, and artivism series have focused on memorial portraiture and topics such as mass incarceration, code switching, intersectionality, consent, and more. She believes each public display is an opportunity to spark necessary dialogue around issues impacting those who hold marginalized identities. Outside of her individual pieces and series, she strives to create community involved public art that engages folx in both the design process and implementation. Some of these projects can be found at the Boys and Girls Club Worcester, Main South Community Development Center, downtown Fitchburg, Legendary Legacies, the . Jennessa finds there is an almost tangible sense of pride that folx exude when communities come together to uplift a space through visual storytelling.